May 2024
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Review: The Wrong Blood, Manuel de Lope

In the county of Basque, in northern Spain, three men stop at a bar before a wedding.  In the bar resides Maria Antonia Etxarri, a teenager whose life is due to be intimately, if reluctantly, intertwined with the bride’s, Isabel Cruces.  Told alternately through flashbacks to the past, including the war which occurred shortly after the wedding, and from a doctor’s viewpoint in the present day, The Wrong Blood slowly reveals to us a story of love and need.  Two women, lives irrevocably altered by the war, find something that they need in one another, and find some degree of fulfilment even if their lives don’t turn out as they’d originally planned.

This is one book that demonstrates beautifully the reason I rarely stop reading books – I almost always finish them, and whether you agree that’s a good idea or not, it does mean I discover some gems I’d otherwise have stuck on the DNF pile.  I have a history of disliking historical fiction set in Spain, but this sounded so appealing I just had to give it a try.  At first I thought this was going to be another book I didn’t really like that much – I didn’t really understand what the three men were doing in the bar, the language felt distant and peculiar, and I just didn’t like the doctor.  While I never really liked the doctor, I eventually grew to find the language poetic as I got further into the story and treasured the connections made in the rather strange beginning, as it all came together amazingly well by the end.

It was when the war began that things got interesting, because those events set off the huge changes that beset Maria Antonia and Isabel.  When the novel starts, we know that Maria Antonia has inherited Isabel’s house in the present, even though Isabel has a grandson who is coming to stay there and Maria Antonia appears to have been the housekeeper.  This immediately made me wonder what had happened, what connection bound these two women that Maria Antonia would be favored over Isabel’s own progeny?  It took the whole novel to get there, but I finally found out, and it all made sense in the end, even the title.  And along the way we’re treated to lovely prose (the translator did an excellent job here) and a very atmospheric story.  I even loved that the time flipped from the past to the present because the contrast between the earlier Spain and the current Spain was marked and fascinating.

This particular novel fits perfectly the type of historical fiction that’s occupying me these days; set in a slightly unusual (for me) location and time with a compelling story to tell and great writing to back it up.  It was such a wonderful read that I’m still thinking about it, and I am enthusiastically recommending The Wrong Blood to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry if you give it a shot.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free through Netgalley for review.


Review: Crazy for Love, Victoria Dahl

Known worldwide as “Bridezilla”, Chloe Turner just wants to get away from it all.  Her former fiance faked his death to get away from her – meaning that she not only grieved for him but was forced to face the extremes to which he’d go to cancel their wedding.  So her friend Jenn takes her to Virginia for a much needed beach holiday, where they meet the Sullivan brothers.  Max Sullivan is afraid of almost everything and has a need to keep everyone safe; he’s drawn to Chloe and finds himself sharing his secrets with her almost immediately.  Will he be pleased when he learns that the infamous Bridezilla is keeping secrets from him?

This was a fun, fast read that would be perfect for the beach or a lazy afternoon.  Though the characters are somewhat tortured in various ways, their dialogue is snappy and it’s very easy to care for them.  There are simultaneous love stories running in the book, but it’s really much more about Chloe and Max; the secondary love story provides a foil and another angle to the main romance.

I liked especially that Chloe and Max were both a little crazy, which I felt meant that they’d suit each other quite well.  Max is a control freak, convinced that someone is going to die under his watch.  He’s been responsible since his father left when he was very young and he just can’t turn off that responsibility.  He stresses about diving, driving, fires, and even night time swimming, which is apparently very dangerous.  I think he would have driven me mad, but his extra attention is perfect for Chloe, who seems mostly normal.  It’s the paparazzi that have driven her mad and made her paranoid, and Max provides an oasis of calm in the middle of the storm her life becomes.

If there was anything I didn’t like about the book, it would have to be the in detail love scenes; Dahl’s books seem to be on the racier side, so it’s worth warning potential readers.  You may like that, but I am not the biggest fan, especially when the hero and heroine hop into bed without much preamble.  I did feel that their relationship grew over the course of the book, and would have done so anyway without these particular scenes.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than I did Victoria Dahl’s last effort, and I went forth and purchased a historical by her on my Kindle almost immediately after finishing this.  So Crazy for Love was a success for me, and if you like contemporary romance, it may be with you as well.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free for review through Netgalley.